Turnovers doom Bears

Published 8:25 am Tuesday, September 10, 2013

AHOSKIE – After two games on the road of nearly error-free football Hertford County High returned here to Bear Stadium Friday night and were done in by mistakes in a 26-19 loss to Rocky Mount.

After dominating the first half and seemingly in command when the second stanza began, the Gryphons used a pair of lightning quick third quarter big plays – one on offense and one on defense – to seize control of the game and then hold off a late fourth quarter Bear rally to hand Hertford County its first loss on the young prep season.

The loss spoiled a 234 yard, 3 touchdown night for senior quarterback Ryan Weaver.  The rifle-armed signal-caller finished the evening going 19-for-29, but he also had two interceptions.

The Bears were held to 48 yards on 35 rushes. Anthony Lassiter and Kenny Sharpe had 16 yards apiece.

Malik Lewis led Rocky Mount, 104 yards on 12 carries..

After stopping the Gryphons on the opening drive of the game and forcing a punt, Hertford County went 63 yards in five plays for the game’s first score. It looked like Rocky Mount had bottled up the Bears at midfield on second and twelve when Weaver Anthony Lassiter on a swing pass out of the backfield and Lassiter cut back up the middle and outraced the Gryphon defenders into the end zone. Ackerman Grace came on for the point-after kick and Hertford County’s fans were loud and proud as the home team struck first to the tune of a 7-0 lead.

The smiles for the home crowd didn’t last, however, as Rocky Mount took seven plays on their next possession after the HCHS score and marched 78 yards downfield to pull within one. Gryphon quarterback James Smith found his big tight end, Darius Lee, for a big gain over the middle and the visitors needed just four plays to get into the red zone. From the 13-yard line Rocky Mount punched it in with a trio of running plays and made it 7-6.  The Bears were spared a tie score when kicker Micah Varnell’s extra point was wide right.

Hertford County padded their lead with another touchdown on their next possession, Coach Scott Privott mixed up the run and the pass on a nine-play 55-yard drive that ended with Weaver this time finding Sharpe over the middle from 22 yards out. This time however, Grace’s extra-point attempt was off the mark and the Bear lead was seven again at 13-6. Those same numbers were still on the scoreboard when the horn sounded to end the first quarter.

In the second quarter Hertford County found itself bottled up deep in its own territory inside the ten-yard line. The Bears punt was fielded by Rocky Mount on the Bear 39 yard line and kick returner Rashawn Harris went down the sideline to the end zone for six more. The kick by Varnell was good this time and the score was tied at 13-all at the 10:15 mark.

Hertford County was driving on its next possession when Weaver suffered his only interception of the night at the Rocky Mount 35-yard line. However, the Gryphon drive was stopped, thanks in part to a huge tackle-for-loss by defensive end O’Shane Ximines, forcing Rocky Mount to punt.

Hertford County used ball control with their running game and ate up much of the second quarter clock. Starting a drive on their own 22 yard line after a Rocky Mount turnover, a Chris Jordan interception, the Bears found paydirt when Weaver completed his third scoring toss of the night as Jamel Monger got the ball into the end zone this time and the Bears had scored with 45 seconds left in the half to take a 19-13 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Unfortunately for Bear fans, the game couldn’t end there.

Hertford County was shut out in the second half and the game turned on two big plays.

Pinned in their own territory, a bad snap went over Weaver’s head on the first Bear possession of the third quarter and Rocky Mount’s Bikembe Kearney outraced Weaver to the ball and scored from two yards out. Again, Varnell’s kick was good, and this time it gave Rocky Mount a 20-19 lead.

With the Gryphon defense stiffening and holding down the Bears’ running game Rocky Mount put the game away with one big play: a 38 yard run from scrimmage by Lewis to ice it and give the visitors the final margin.

Hertford County’s last chance came with five minutes left in the game, but a pair of penalties and Weaver’s second interception sealed the Bears’ fate.

Hertford County (2-1) is back at home next Friday night against another Nash County team, this time Nash Central comes to Bear Stadium.